Skip to Main Content

Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19): Evaluating Sources

The guide provides search strategies and recommended resources for finding information about COVID-19.

Strategies for Evaluating Sources


What Makes an Information Source "Good?"

“Good” sources include those that provide complete, current, factual information, and/or credible arguments based on the information creator’s original research, expertise, and/or use of other reliable sources.

Whether a source is a good choice for you depends on your information needs and how you plan to use the source.

Evaluating Sources Using Lateral & Vertical Reading

The SIFT* & PICK approach to evaluating sources helps you select quality sources by practicing:

yellow arrow pointing to the right  Lateral Reading (SIFT): fact-checking by examining other sources and internet fact-checking tools; and

green arrow pointing downVertical Reading (PICK): examining the source itself to decide whether it is the best choice for your needs.

*The SIFT method was created by Mike Caulfield under a CC BY 4.0 International License.




  • Check your emotions before engaging
  • Do you know and trust the author, publisher, publication, or website?
    • If not, use the following fact-checking strategies before reading, sharing, or using the source in your research

Investigate the source

  • Don’t focus on the source itself for now
  • Instead, read laterally
    • Learn about the source’s author, publisher, publication, website, etc. from other sources, such as Wikipedia

Find better coverage

  • Focus on the information rather than getting attached to a particular source
  • If you can’t determine whether a source is reliable, trade up for a higher quality source
  • Professional fact checkers build a list of sources they know they can trust

Trace claims to the original context

  • Identify whether the source is original or re-reporting
  • Consider what context might be missing in re-reporting
  • Go “upstream” to the original source
    • Was the version you saw accurate and complete?



Purpose / Genre / Type

  • Determine the type of source (book, article, website, social media post, etc.)
    • Why and how it was created? How it was reviewed before publication?
  • Determine the genre of the source (factual reporting, opinion, ad, satire, etc.)
  • Consider whether the type and genre are appropriate for your information needs

Information Relevance / Usefulness

  • Consider how well the content of the source addresses your specific information needs
    • Is it directly related to your topic?
    • How does it help you explore a research interest or develop an argument?

Creation Date

  • Determine when the source was first published or posted
    • Is the information in the source (including cited references) up-to-date?
  • Consider whether newer sources are available that would add important information


  • Consider how this source relates to the body of knowledge on the topic
    • Does it echo other experts’ contributions? Does it challenge them in important ways?
    • Does this source contribute something new to the conversation?
  • Consider what voices or perspectives are missing or excluded from the conversation
    • Does this source represent an important missing voice or perspective on the topic?
    • Are other sources available that better include those voices or perspectives?
  • How does this source help you to build and share your own knowledge?

Creative Commons License SIFT & PICK by Ellen Carey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. Last updated 4/11/23.

Using Fact Checkers

Fact checkers research news stories and other information found on the internet to determine their accuracy. If you're not sure whether the information you found is accurate, try searching these fact checking websites to see what they say about it:

  • Better News Fact Checking Resource Page Provides expert fact checking advice and tutorials, from the American Press Institute’s Accountability Journalism and Fact-Checking Project, which aims to increase and improve fact-checking and other accountability journalism practices.
  • A nonpartisan, nonprofit “consumer advocate” for voters that aims to reduce the level of deception and confusion in U.S. politics by monitoring the factual accuracy of what is said by major U.S. political players in the form of TV ads, debates, speeches, interviews and news releases.
  • PolitiFact A Pulitzer Prize-winning fact-checking website that rates the accuracy of claims by elected officials and others who speak up in American politics.
  • A website that researches and determines the history and accuracy of internet rumors, urban legends, and other stories.
  • Washington Post Fact Checker A blog and newspaper column that determines the accuracy of the statements of political figures regarding important issues, and seeks to explain difficult issues, provide missing context, and provide analysis of efforts to obscure or shade the truth.

Determining Which Science-Related Websites Are Fake or Biased

Several scholars and journalists have compiled lists of fake news sites, including those that share pseudoscience. Here are some of the best:

  • Media Bias/Fact Check (MBFC News) "Dedicated to educating the public on media bias and deceptive news practice," MBFC categorizes dozens of news sources based on their bias. The website also includes lists of reliable sources of scientific information, unreliable pseudoscience sources, and satirical sources.
  • False, Misleading, Clickbait-y, and/or Satirical "News" Sources A comprehensive list of unreliable "news" sources, created by Professor Melissa Zimdars. See Zimdars's original document for "Tips For Analyzing News Sources," and read the Chronicle of Higher Education interview with her for more information about the project, and the response to it.

Identifying and Debunking Fake News

The following video tutorial covers how to identify and analyze different types of misinformation, and provides some strategies for evaluating news sources and finding more reliable information on the internet (from off campus you will need to log in using your Pipeline username and password):